2004 Detroit Show, Part V

January 5, 2004

 

2004 Detroit Auto Show Coverage (1/4/2004)

Ferrari Brings Big Love with 612 Scaglietti

2004 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

2004 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

Luca di Montezemolo, chairman of Ferrari, says the new 612 Scaglietti was introduced to the world at the Detroit auto show to celebrate “fifty years of big love between Ferrari and its U.S. clients” as well as a record sales year in the States — final numbers, of course, withheld. The 612 is the successor to the 456M 2+2, dubbed “Scaglietti” after one of the early car crafters at Modena. The 612 is a 2+2 coupe with a 540-hp version of the 5.7-liter V-12 engine from the 575 Maranello. It’s said to be roomier than the last 456M, but weighs as much as 132 pounds less. The aluminum-intensive chassis is 60 percent more rigid, and the body wears details penned after a special Ferrari prepared in the 1960s for actress Ingrid Bergman. Ferrari estimates zero to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds and a top speed of more than 195 mph, thanks to the engine and a choice of six-speed manual gearbox or a Formula 1-derived transmission. —Marty Padgett

BMW Drops 6-Series Convertible Lid at Detroit

2005 6-Series Convertible

2005 6-Series Convertible

Sales have never been better for BMW’s U.S. operations, according to Tom Purves, CEO of BMW USA. For 2003, the BMW Group here, including MINI and Rolls-Royce, sold 276,869 cars in the States, an increase of eight percent over 2002 and an all-time sales record for the Bavarian automaker. For the first time, the company’s U.S. operations are the sales leader among all markets, including Germany. MINI alone accounted for more than 36,000 units of U.S. sales and will likely post more sales increases in the summer as a Cooper Convertible comes on line, Purves added. BMW AG as a whole sold more than 1.1 million vehicle worldwide last year, a figure expected to rise as well with the addition of new models like the X3, 6-Series Coupe and the new 6-Series convertible, shown for the first time at the Detroit show. The 645Ci convertible shares its 4.4-liter V-8 with the 645Ci Coupe, and makes 325 hp through any of the three transmissions BMW will offer on it: a six-speed manual, a six-speed Steptronic automatic or a six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) with Formula 1-style shifting. The convertible will hit 60 mph in roughly six seconds on its way to a top speed of 155 mph. A DVD navigation system will be standard. Pricing starts from $76,995. —Marty Padgett

Concept-E Declares Eclipse Future

2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse Concept-E

2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse Concept-E

The Concept-E “shows what you can expect in the fourth generation of the Eclipse,” declared Mitsubishi’s head of U.S. operations, Finbarr O’Neill. Both the Concept-E and the next-generation production Eclipse ride on the same platform as the Galant sedan and Endeavor SUV (termed PS within the company), which has the capability for standard all-wheel-drive systems, so we can assume that since a hybrid powertrain is featured on the Concept-E, hybrid AWD variations are being considered for those cars as well.

Although we’re sure Mitsubishi and designers didn’t like the term “cab-forward” being mentioned, the Concept-E’s raked silhouette — with the base of the windshield far forward and very little overhang in front — stands distinct from the trend for small sports-coupe concepts at the show this year, which seem to taking on longer hoods and slung-back cabins. Richard Plavetich, director of Mitsubishi’s MDA Design Center and a key member of the car’s design team, said that the inspiration for the car’s shape was a pouncing cat. The shape carries an implied motion, he added.

The Concept-E serves as a testing bed for a new performance-oriented hybrid system. Unlike existing hybrid systems that emphasize economy, this system would provide the “economy of a V-6 Eclipse with the performance of a Ferrari,” said Plavetich. He’s not joking; the hybrid system provides a much more favorable (nearly 50/50) weight distribution, and it’s tuned to only send power to the back wheels under high-performance driving (or under more subtle conditions when traction is needed). A 269-hp V-6 gasoline V-6 drives the front wheels through an automated six-speed manual transmission, while a powerful 150 kW (about 200 hp) electric motor powers the rear wheels, for a total of 470 hp for short bursts. The system has been fully developed (they’ve had the car out on the track), and is a blast to drive, we’re told.

So is the hybrid system a go? “It’s completely feasible,” deadpanned Plavetich, but he added that now the question remains as to whether customers would be willing to fork over extra money for the model, hinting that it might mean an extra $6k to $8k to the sticker price, and that the car’s reception by the press and showgoers would help test those waters. —Bengt Halvorson

Mitsu Truck Concept Gets A Lot from Dodge

2004 Mitsubishi Sport Truck Concept

2004 Mitsubishi Sport Truck Concept

“Sleek, sophisticated, and a long way from the farm,” said the announcer for the Sport Truck Concept’s glitzy introduction. With pickups sorely missing from Mitsubishi’s lineup for much of the past decade, the Sport Truck Concept shows the direction of a production vehicle that will fill this gap.

Powered by a Chrysler Group 4.7-liter V-8 engine with 235 hp and positioned as an “urban truck,” the Sport Truck Concept combines a sporty and untraditional exterior truck shape with a luxurious and elegant interior. The truck is specifically catered to on-road performance, with a full-time all-wheel drive system and a four-wheel independent suspension. Flared fenders and huge 22-inch wheels help up its urban intimidation qualities.

The truck doesn’t sacrifice any functionality, though. Suicide doors (here termed “barn doors”) provide easy access to the cabin under most conditions, and a tailgate extender allows longer objects like jet skis to be transported safely. The tailgate is electrically operated. A feature unique to this concept allows rear-seat passengers to be projected upward and out from the cabin, into an open-air position, while the rear window becomes a windshield for them. It seems useful for parades, but we can’t imagine what else. —Bengt Halvorson

VW Concept T Goes Way Off-Road

2004 Volkswagen Concept T concept

2004 Volkswagen Concept T concept

Dune buggy or serious production concept? We’ll lean toward the latter when it comes to the VW Concept T, a crossover with intimidating rally-car looks and, VW says, the performance to back them up. The “off-road coupe” sports a 241-hp V-6 engine and 4MOTION all-wheel drive, which with a Tiptronic gearbox help the Concept T scoot to 60 mph in less than 6.9 seconds, and a hoped-for top speed of 144 mph. Gullwing doors and a T-bar roof give the coupe an open-sky feel, made even more open by removing the hardtop and integrated trunk lid. Nineteen-inch wheels and a tall stance imply harcore off-road ability, while the interior is all about high tech, from the Personal Mobility Gateway (PMG) wireless communication interface that doubles (triples?) as a navigation system and MP3 player.
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